While it may be one of the first guitar effects ever created, the humble vibrato pedal has rarely gotten the respect it’s deserved. Once built into the amplifiers of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, vibrato is a unique and musical effect that any player can use to add rich texture and a unique tone to your playing.

These days, you’re far more likely to see vibrato in pedal form than you are to see it built into an amplifier. But, with some many different brands on the market, and so much misinformation about what vibrato is and what it does, selecting a vibrato pedal is one of the most challenging pedal decisions to make.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at this often misunderstood effect, and we’ll recommend some of the best and most musical vibrato pedals that you can add to your rig today.

What is the Best Vibrato Pedal?

What exactly is a vibrato pedal and what does it do?

Here’s the million dollar question. It’s critically important that we lead off by developing an understanding of vibrato because it’s so often confused with tremolo. We have the iconic guitar builder Leo Fender to blame for that one.

When Leo first developed his iconic Stratocaster guitar, he included a bridge which you could manipulate to change the tone of the guitar. This bridge added a slight variation in pitch along the guitar’s waveform, and Leo called the bar you used to manipulate the bridge a “tremolo bar.”

What Leo had developed was a vibrato bar, not a tremolo bar. This misclassification brings us to where we are today, where vibrato and tremolo are regularly confused for one another, even though they’re two very different effects.

A vibrato pedal belongs to the family of modulation pedals, like chorus, flanger, or phaser. The pedal works by taking your dry signal and pitch shifting it to produce a sound that’s very similar to what it would sound like if someone were manipulating a whammy bar as you played.

Vibrato pedals usually have several controls that allow you to manipulate the effect, including a speed control, which affects the frequency of the wave, additional controls will enable you to set how drastic the modulation is from your dry tone, and how much of the effect is mixed in with your dry tone.

Vibrato pedals allow you to add tons of different textures to your playing. Whether you’re looking to add a light shimmer to a crystal clean channel, or a more dramatic and spacey effect, a vibrato pedal may be the perfect way for you to take your playing to the next level.

What makes a great vibrato pedal?

Now that we have a better understanding of what a vibrato pedal is and what it does let’s take a look at what makes a vibrato pedal great. Whether you opt for one of the excellent pedals on our list, or you head off on your own in search of the best pedal for you, you’ll want to evaluate every pedal based on these four factors below.

  1. Several adjustment parameters
  2. Additional modulation effects
  3. Analog circuitry
  4. True bypass wiring

Several Adjustment Parameters

When we talk about adjustment parameters, that’s just a fancy way of saying “get one with a lot of knobs.”

Vibrato pedals are very simple in design, but the modulation they create has so much room for customization. With some modulation pedals, two knobs, or even a single knob is all you need to unlock all of the different tones the pedal can capture.

But with vibrato, a lot of different factors go into the tone of the pedal. You can adjust the frequency of the soundwaves with a rate or speed knob, and the intensity of the effect with a depth knob.

Some pedals take it a step further, allowing you to adjust the rise of the pedal, which determines how much time it takes for the original signal to reach its new pitch-shifted signal. If there are additional modulation effects in the pedal, such as chorus, there should be a knob that allows you to control that effect as well.

The more knobs your pedal has, the more tones you’ll be able to capture with the pedal, and the more versatile it will be.

Additional Modulation Effects

While vibrato is a beautiful effect all on its own, the addition of other effects, like chorus, for example, can take your tones to the next level.

Since chorus and vibrato go together like peanut butter and jelly, many manufacturers allow you to add a bit of chorus to your sound. The result is a beautiful, shimmery sound that’s reminiscent of the iconic Leslie organ, which is one of the most important musical inventions of the 20th century.

The iconic MXR Uni-Vibe pedal was the first effect to incorporate chorus and vibrato together, and it remains one of the most popular vibrato pedals on the market to this day. Many manufacturers have copied that popular design, adding a chorus function to their own effects pedals.

Just like additional knobs will allow you to unlock more sounds in your pedal, the addition of a chorus effect can add a new dimension to the pedal’s sound.

Analog Circuitry

When it comes to effects pedals, you’ll find analog and digital versions of virtually every kind of pedal. Each type comes with inherent strengths and weaknesses.

With analog pedals, the signal from your guitar is completely untouched as it enters the effects pedal. The signal passes through the effect pedal and continues to your amp, where the resulting sound is usually characterized as warm and natural.

The reason why the sound is so warm and natural is that an analog waveform is continuous and smooth, and it can take on an infinite number of shapes. This becomes important when you think about how people play the guitar. Everyone’s playing style is unique, and analog pedals allow those unique characteristics to shine through as you play.

With digital pedals, the signal from the guitar must be converted from an analog signal to a digital signal before it can be processed. Unlike analog waveforms, which are smooth and continuous, digital waveforms are made up of a series of points, which are broken up along the length of the waveform. The result is a sound that’s less warm and natural.

This isn’t to say that digital pedals can’t or don’t sound good; in fact, some digital pedals are preferable to their analog counterparts. But, in the case of a vibrato pedal, a warm and natural tone is practically a prerequisite.

The best vibrato pedals feature analog circuitry. These pedals highlight the nuances of the user’s playing style and deliver a warm and smooth effect that allows you to take your playing to the next level.

True Bypass Wiring

Just as pedals can be analog or digital, there are also two ways a pedal can handle your signal when the effect isn’t in use.

The first method is called a buffered bypass. With these pedals, before your signal enters the pedal, it passes through a buffer. The buffer acts as a pre-amp, and it powers your sound as it sends it into the pedal’s effect engine.

There are a few advantages to buffered pedals. Buffered pedals allow you to drive longer cables with less signal loss, they introduce virtually no noise into your signal when you turn the pedal on or off, and they usually don’t interact strangely with tuner pedals the way true bypass pedals can.

Unfortunately, there’s one massive drawback to buffered bypass. The buffer will inherently color your tone, both when the pedal is engaged and when it is off. This means that the pure, unadulterated signal from your guitar never actually makes it to your amp. Depending on the quality of the buffers in your pedals, this change in tone can be profound.

With true bypass pedals, your signal can pass through the pedal without ever being affected by buffers. This ensures that the pure tone of your guitar makes it to your amp without issue.

The biggest drawback of true bypass pedals is that they introduce a “pop” sound when you turn the pedal on or off. However, this sound is virtually inaudible unless you’re using the dirty channel on your amp. Since vibrato is most often used on the clean channel, it’s likely that this will never be an issue for you.

Since you’re unlikely to ever experience any adverse effects with a true bypass vibrato pedal, we recommend going for a pedal that’s true bypass so that it doesn’t add any unwanted color to your sound.

Vibrato Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Earthquaker Devices Aqueduct Vibrato

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

One of the most versatile vibratos on the market, the Aqueduct from Earthquaker Devices provides eight different modes that feature a variety of waveform shapes and envelopes to deliver wildly different tones. It’s almost like eight different effects in a single stompbox.

  • Eight different effect modes
  • Latched or momentary operation
  • Rate and depth to control the effect parameters within each mode
  • Vintage Fender-style jewel light indicator

The Aqueduct is a particularly intriguing pedal as it provides a mode selector switch that provides eight distinct operation modes within a single pedal. Each mode provides a different waveform shape or envelope which can dramatically affect the sound of the pedal. Rate and depth controls allow you to tweak each mode to your liking.

Flexi-switch silent relay switching allows you to use the pedal in traditional latched mode, where the pedal is controlled with the footswitch, or momentary mode, where the effect is only engaged when you hold down the footswitch. This small feature allows you to create some unique sounds, like using the effect for only part of a passage before stepping off again.

The Aqueduct features all metal construction with a beautiful blue sparkle finish, heavy-duty ¼” jacks, and a 9V power jack.

What Customers Like

  • Eight different effect modes add significant versatility
  • Latched or momentary operation
  • Top-quality components and sound

What Customers Dislike

  • Rate control isn’t especially sensitive at lower settings
  • Some modes don’t seem especially useful

TC Electronic Shaker Mini Vibrato

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

TC Electronic continues to push the envelope with their revolutionary new TonePrint software, which allows players to pull 100s of unique tones from their library directly into the pedal. This decidedly digital feature aside, the Shaker Mini still manages to produce beautifully warm tones, all while occupying less space on your pedalboard.

  • TonePrint compatible
  • True bypass circuitry
  • Nano size housing
  • Analog dry-through even when the effect is engaged

Despite its digital circuitry, the Shaker Mini manages to capture incredibly warm and natural vibrato tone while offering some serious digital perks, like the TonePrint app, which allows you to tap into a library of hundreds of tones from top guitarists and other players, as well as develop your tones through the TonePrint visualizer.

The pedal also features true bypass circuitry and a nano housing so even guitarists working with severely cramped pedalboards will be able to add this gem to their pedalboards. Simple depth, speed, and ramp controls allow you to take full control of the most critical parameters of the effect. This pedal also features an analog-dry-through for your dry signal, which offers a significantly warmer sound compared to other digital pedals.

What Customers Like

  • TonePrint app
  • Perfect for cramped pedalboards
  • Sensitive and useful controls

What Customers Dislike

  • Noticeable switching noise when used on dirty channels
  • Can’t be used with vibrato

MXR Uni-Vibe Chorus/Vibrato

What Makes It Special?

A classic since the late ‘60s, this faithful reissue provides all the signature vibes of the original Uni-Vibe pedal, updated for the 21st century. This pedal offers two distinct effect modes: your standard vibrato effect, and the Uni-Vibe effect which adds a light chorus to the effect signal.

  • Two different operating modes
  • True-bypass construction
  • Level, speed, and depth controls
  • Road ready build quality

The iconic Uni-Vibe from MXR provides all the classic, analog tone you could ask for from a vibrato pedal, and it allows you to combine the effect with the rich and bell-like chime of a chorus to take your tones to the next level. Controls for level, speed, and depth allow you to control each parameter of the effect effectively.

Faithful to the original, this pedal features true-bypass construction and a durable metal chassis with a thick, textured coating that’s sure to stand up to anything that you can dish out at it. The Phase 90 style housing is small enough to add to even the tightest pedalboards.

What Customers Like

  • Signature Uni-Vibe sound
  • True bypass construction
  • Easy and intuitive controls

What Customers Dislike

  • Button to toggle between effects is small and poorly located
  • Sucks some of the high-end out of your signal

CNZ Audio Mod Station Digital Modulation Pedal

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

For those of us just getting our start in the guitar world, versatile effects are especially important. The Mod Station from CNZ Audio features a total of eleven effects to provide beginners and students with the biggest tonal toolbox possible. True bypass construction, a nano housing, and easy and intuitive controls make this pedal a perfect addition for newbies.

  • Multiple modulation and filter effects
  • True bypass construction
  • Nano pedal housing
  • Level, speed, and depth controls

The Mod Station from CNZ Audio provides players with a litany of different effects. While they might not be as high in quality as the top of the line options, we’re still thoroughly impressed by how accurate and musical each effect is.

This pedal provides multiple choruses, flangers, phasers, vibrato, tremolo, and envelope filters, and it’s a ton of fun to explore. Controls for level, speed, and depth controls are intuitive, and they can control a variety of parameters depending on the effect you’re dialed into.

This pedal also offers true bypass construction and a pint-sized nano case which is perfect for stashing in a gig bag or placing on a packed out pedalboard.

What Customers Like

  • Eleven different effects in a single stomp
  • True bypass construction
  • Easy and intuitive controls

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t run on batteries
  • Doesn’t have the same tonal qualities as more expensive, single effect pedals

Behringer UV300 Ultra Vibrato

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

A reasonably faithful copy of the popular Boss VB-2 pedal from the ‘80s, the UV300 from Behringer allows you to tap into big vibrato tone at a paltry price that any guitarist can afford. Two different operating modes and the addition of a rise control make this pedal surprisingly effective considering how affordable it is.

  • Latched and unlatched operating modes
  • Depth, rate, and rise controls

The UV300 from Behringer is ideal for players looking to add a vibrato to their pedalboard for occasional use, but aren’t looking to shell out $100 or more for a high-end model. This pedal features controls for depth, rate, and rise, which allows you to control how long it takes the effect to reach its full modulation point, which is a useful and oft missing control for a vibrato.

A sliding switch allows you to choose between two different modes: latched and unlatched, with the unlatched mode turning the pedal on when you depress the pedal and keep it held down. This features adds a useful layer of control that was made famous by the iconic Boss VB-2.

While the quality of the effect itself is nearly as high as the high-end options on our list, the build quality is a bit mediocre, which can be expected from such a bargain-priced pedal.

What Customers Like

  • Convincing vibrato sound
  • Two mode operation

What Customers Dislike

  • Questionable build quality
  • Doesn’t sound as warm or rich as analog vibratos

6 More Really Good Vibrato Pedals

Digitech Ventura Vibe

Digitech’s Ventura Vibe pedal is a unique and versatile effect that provides three different operating modes. The vintage mode is reminiscent of a classic Uni-Vibe, while the modern mode is a straight-up vibrato effect. The rotary mode has Leslie rotary speaker vibes, and it’s a particularly welcomed addition to this pedal.

This pedal also features stereo outputs, controls for speed, depth, mix, and tone, and cool Coney Island sideshow style graphics. It also includes a custom cut pedalboard velcro and a rubber control protector to protect the pedal and keep you from making unwanted level changes with your foot.

Boss VB-2w Waza Craft Vibrato

One of the most popular vibrato pedals of all time, the Boss VB-2 broke player’s hearts when it was discontinued in the ‘80s. Thankfully, it was reissued under Boss’ high-end Waza Craft line, updated with even more functionality than the original.

This pedal features controls for rise, depth, and rate, and features latched and unlatched operating modes. Complete analog circuitry allows you to capture all the warmth and tonal character of the original. While this pedal packs a high-end price tag, it’s arguably the best vibrato pedal on the market.

JHS Unicorn V2 Analog Uni-Vibe

JHS is one of the finest boutique effects companies on the market, and their Unicorn V2 Uni-Vibe style pedal provides a faithful, yet thoroughly modern take on this classic effect.

This pedal is photocell-based, just like the iconic Uni-Vibe pedals of yesteryear, and it’s a very accurate copy of this type of effect. Controls for volume, depth, and speed allow you to control the pedal, which a ratio knob changes the subdivisions of the effect by quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted eighths, or triplets. It’s also the only vibrato pedal that offers tap tempo.

A wet/dry switch lets you toggle between a classic vibrato and a Uni-Vibe effect, and the entire pedal is hand-built in the United States.

TC Electronic Viscous Vibe

In addition to the popular Shaker and Shaker Nano vibrato pedals, TC Electronic also makes a fantastic clone of the early Shine-Eli Uni-Vibe pedal.

This pedal features stereo ins and outs, controls for speed, intensity, and volume, and a toggle switch that allows you to tap into three separate modes — vibrato by itself, a Uni-Vibe style effect, and TonePrint.

TonePrint is TC Electronic’s revolutionary app that allows you to dial into hundreds of tones from the most famous guitarists, and other players who use the pedal.

The Viscous Vibe is perfect for players who loved the idea of the TonePrint app but didn’t pull the trigger on the Shaker pedal because it lacked that classic Uni-Vibe sound.

Catalinbread Chorus/Vibrato Pedal

Handmade in Portland, Oregon, Catalinbread has quickly developed a reputation for making some of the finest pedals in the country. They do an especially good job at providing updated versions of the classic effects on early rock ‘n roll.

Like many pedals on our list, this pedal is essentially a Uni-Vibe copy. This pedal provides exceptional control over the chorus sound that’s associated with the Uni-Vibe effect. However, you can’t toggle between two separate modes like other Uni-Vibe style pedals.

Width, density, rate, and mix controls allow you to control all the parameters of the effect, and it runs off a 9V battery or power supply. The cool abstract graphics are another impressive touch that helps elevate this boutique quality option.

TC Electronic Shaker Vibrato

While the Shaker Nano fills a hole in the market with its sub-$100 price point, the original Shaker is the true powerhouse of the Shaker pedal family.

The full-size Shaker offers the same functionality of the nano pedal, including the TonePrint app. It also adds a tone knob so you can exact additional control over the color of the effect. This pedal also adds a mode selector to choose between latched or unlatched operation and TonePrint.

This additional functionality only adds a couple of extra bucks to the pedal, so you may want to check this pedal out if you’re leaning towards the Shaker Nano.

5 FAQ’s about Vibrato Pedals

How do you use a vibrato pedal?

One of the reasons for the resurgence of the vibrato pedal is that a new generation of guitar players are finally learning about vibrato and what they can accomplish with the pedal. But, there’s still a lot of gray areas, and many players are unaware of how to use one effectively.

Many players will use a vibrato pedal to add a subtle, shimmering effect to their clean channels. This is perhaps the most impactful way to use a vibrato pedal, as it can add a gorgeous layer to your clean sound.

You can also use a vibrato pedal to explore far-out psychedelic territory by getting a bit more creative with the parameters of the effect. Turning the rate, depth, and rise knobs up more aggressively will result in a much more profound modulation and a truly “far-out” tone.

One of the most popular ways to use vibrato is to combine it with an additional modulation effect, like chorus. This is a great way to unlock the bell-like chime and shimmer that a vibrato pedal is capable of. Many pedals include an onboard chorus effect, but some just provide straight vibrato.

If your pedal only offers vibrato, using it in conjunction with a chorus will allow you to tap into this same effect. It will also give you much more room to manipulate the sound since you’ll have a full set of controls for your chorus pedal that wouldn’t be present on a vibrato pedal that also offers chorus.

The owner’s manual for your new vibrato pedal should also have a few different preset recommendations from the manufacturer as well. These presets are a great starting point for your own experimentation. By starting with parameters that you know sound great, it’s much easier to tweak them to your liking without losing any of the tonal character of the pedal.

Where do you place a vibrato pedal (in the chain)?

If you’ve ever bought a new pedal and were completely unhappy with the way it sounded, there’s a good chance that it’s your fault and not the fault of the pedal.

Why? Because where you place your effects in your signal chain can have a profound effect on their performance. Believe it or not, there’s a tried and true approach to setting up your pedals to ensure you get the most out of each one.

First, you’ll want to place any dynamic effects you have, such as a compressor or equalizer. Next, place filters, such as a wah or envelope filter in the chain. From there, add gain effects like distortion, overdrive, or fuzz. Then, modulation effects like vibrato, chorus, flanger, or phaser can be added, followed by time-based effects like delay or reverb.

This basic configuration tends to work best, but there are also a few things you can change around to achieve slightly different tones. For example, some guitarists will place their volume pedal or equalization in the middle of the chain, before their modulation effects, and doing so can provide slightly different tones compared to if you placed them at the beginning.

If your amp has an effects loop, you may want to use it to place your modulation and time-based effects. Using your amps effects loop for these effects can have a profound effect on your sound if you regularly use the dirty channel on your amp. If you don’t, using the effects loop won’t have much effect at all.

What are the top vibrato pedal brands?

When it comes to vibrato pedals, there are a few top brands that have consistently produced the highest quality vibrato effects for many years. Be sure to check them out as you search for the perfect pedal for you.

MXR is one of the most storied producers of effects pedals in the world, and they’ve continued to produce quality effects, even after the original company was sold years ago to Jim Dunlop. Their iconic Uni-Vibe pedal is one of the most storied and well-used vibrato pedals on the market, and it’s one you need to try before making a decision.

TC Electronic is another heavyweight in the pedal community, and they’ve been hand building effects pedals since the late 1960s. They produce a few different vibrato pedals today, including the Viscous Vibe and the Shaker, and both are among the top vibrato pedals on the market.

Boss is perhaps the best-known brand of any effects producer, and their vibrato pedal is unimpeachable as one of the greatest of all time. Their classic vibrato was discontinued years ago, and vintage versions regularly command $300 or more on the secondary market. Recently, they’ve re-released the pedal through their iconic Waza Craft line.

How much does a good vibrato pedal typically cost?

Like most pedals, there’s a pretty wide variance in price among the top options on the market. There are a few budget priced options, but they’re rarely able to capture the subtleties and nuances of the higher-end options on the market.

You can expect a quality vibrato pedal to cost just over $100. Several popular pedals produce a great sound that are available for around that price.

That said, some of the best, most popular, and most versatile vibrato pedals on the market creep up towards the $200 range. The Boss VB-2w and Earthquaker Devices Aqueduct pedal are examples of top-of-the-line vibratos that command a higher price.

Depending on how often you plan to use your vibrato, and the style that you’ll be using it in, you may find that you can get away with purchasing a cheaper model. However, if you plan on using your pedal often, or you’d like to be able to explore as much sonic territory as possible with your new vibrato, you may want to look into the high-end options.

Where can I learn more about vibrato pedals?

You should have a pretty solid education on all things vibrato at this point, but if you’re like us, you like to soak up as much info as possible, especially when you’re making decisions for your pedal board.

Sweetwater is such a great resource for learning more about effects and gear in general. While they exist primarily as a retail store, they do a great job of providing helpful info, and almost every effect’s product page has a video demo so you can get an idea for how the pedal sounds before buying it.

Andertons is a UK based music store that specializes in guitar effects, and they also do a great job of providing plenty of educational info on the gear they sell. The link above has some helpful info about all things vibrato and tremolo.

Guitar World is one of the most popular magazines for guitar players, and they’ve consistently provided some of the best interviews, info, and tips for guitar players. They have plenty of great info on vibrato pedals, including some exhaustive reviews of all the pedals we’ve covered above.

Conclusion

While it’s often understood, vibrato is a seriously cool effect that can provide a beautiful richness and texture to your music.

What are some of your favorite vibrato pedals? Do you have any recommended settings to share? Sound off in the comments below and let us know how you feel!

When shopping for a vibrato pedal, many players also check out other effects, including:

  • Chorus
  • Tremolo
  • Rotary speaker
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